Yes, THAT Tony Sanchez

Tony Sanchez is like the Winter Olympics of Colorado politics: He re-appears every four years to a lukewarm reception, and most everything he does is fairly confusing. This snapshot from Sanchez’s Twitter feed tells you everything you need to know about his return to Colorado politics:

Tony Sanchez last appeared on Twitter in Oct. 2014

Colorado political observers will recall that Sanchez emerged out of nowhere (also called “California”) when he announced in 2014 that he would seek the Republican nomination for State Senate in SD-22 (Lakewood). Sanchez was a recent arrival in Colorado, but he somehow convinced conservative groups such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) to back him in a GOP Primary against the more moderate and better-known Mario Nicolais.

Sanchez pulled off a surprise victory over Nicolais in a bitter primary fight that caused much consternation among Republicans; Democratic incumbent Andy Kerr went on to defeat Sanchez in the General Election for a seat that Republicans thought they had a decent chance of winning. Kerr was a probably a better candidate than either Nicolais or Sanchez, but the general opinion at the time was that Republicans might have had a shot at capturing SD-22 with a less-extreme candidate who actually had some sort of personal history in the area.

Kerr will exhaust his term limits in the state Senate in 2018 (he’s running for Congress in CD-7), and Sanchez is back to take another shot at the legislature. It is not clear yet who will be the Democratic candidate for SD-22, but the presence of Sanchez won’t exactly be a deterrent for anyone considering the possibility.

BREAKING: Beauprez Group Guilty of Violating Campaign Law

THURSDAY UPDATE: Prescient from the Denver Post’s Megan Schrader earlier this month–and keep in mind that Schrader is a former Colorado Springs Gazette employee:

Caught in the middle — and asked to testify — are two former employees of [Beauprez’s] nonprofit: Dede Laugesen, the wife of Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen, and newly hired Gazette political blogger Dan Njegomir.

In an interesting display of questionable ethics, both the Gazette editorial board and Njegomir wrote negative pieces about Arnold in the months leading up to the administrative law court case last week. Neither disclosed their connection to an entity Arnold was suing. At least not until a separate media outlet disclosed that the nonprofit paid Njegomir for his services. And even then, using the word “disclosure” in this context hardly fits. Instead, Njegomir wrote an odd blog post about the fact he had been subpoenaed by Arnold in the case and blamed Arnold of engaging in “plain-old payback.”

Njegomir has the plausible (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) defense here that he couldn’t have known Arnold had filed suit against someone who had once hired him as an investigative reporter — after all Arnold is involved in that many lawsuits. But still, it looks really bad.

—–

We wrote last summer about an unusual red-on-red fight pitting Colorado Republican kingpin Bob Beauprez against a slate of Republican candidates and incumbent lawmakers. The intent appears to have been to “purge” the Colorado General Assembly of Republicans Beauprez considered too off message, and was partially successful–the group spent against losing Republican incumbents like Janak Joshi and Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, but was less successful against other incumbents like Rep. Lori Saine.

One thing Beauprez’s Pioneer Action campaign against fellow Republicans did do smashingly well was infuriate allies of the Republicans targeted. In due course, longtime Republican gadfly Matt Arnold filed suit against Pioneer Action alleging that its activities were incompatible with the organization’s tax status.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Another Republican political operative, former Colorado Senate staffer Dan Njegomir now employed by Phil Anschutz’s Colorado Springs Gazette, wrote a series of articles at the Gazette’s political blog slamming Matt Arnold. And as the rival Colorado Springs Independent reported last month, Njegomir had thousands of reasons:

Dan Njegomir has earned his bread and butter via his political firm, NewsSpeak Media LLC.

This outfit has worked for various political causes, including opposing oil and gas regulations in 2014…NewsSpeak was paid $20,000 for that. More recently, NewsSpeak was paid more than $20,000 by Colorado Pioneer Action, a politically active organization run by former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, according to Matt Arnold, who runs Campaign Integrity Watchdog website. [Pols emphasis]

The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reported earlier this month about the testy exchange between Njegomir and Arnold in court:

Njegomir said he produced content about the lawmakers that Colorado Pioneer Action posted online. He stressed that he was hired to look into their conduct as sitting public officials — not as candidates for office — and hold them accountable. He said he was hired to “cover them as journalists would.” For instance, he looked into a charity Klingenschmitt ran, he said, that “we thought over time seemed to raise ethical questions.”

Njegomir said he also worked with an entity called Colorado Government Watch, a group run by a Colorado Springs-area political consultant named Dede Laugesen. Asked if he was paid by that group, Njegomir said he did not know.

…Arnold repeatedly asked Njegomir if Klingenschmitt and Joshi were “candidates.” “Knock it off with the candidate stuff,” Njegomir responded, his voice rising, “because part of my stock and trade [was] not getting involved in politics with that project, and you’re not going to box me into it.”

Political gadfly Matt Arnold.

So we’re clear, folks, the odds that Dan Njegomir was not aware that Janak Joshi and Gordon Klingenschmitt were candidates at the time they were targeted by Pioneer Action are somewhere in the neighborhood of 0%. In fact, it’s patently ridiculous. If Njegomir, a longtime Colorado Republican political operative, really did not know that Joshi and Klingenschmitt were running again, he should never work in Colorado politics again–let alone write for a major newspaper’s political blog.

And that’s at least part of the reason why, as Arnold triumphantly reports today on his blog:

Putting an exclamation point on months of pre-trial proceedings and days of hearing evidence and witness testimony, the case against “Both-Ways Bob” Beauprez’ political action committee (by another name) ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) resulted in a Final Agency Decision (FAD) released today finding the organization guilty of multiple violations of state law.

CIW’s Complaint alleging Colorado Pioneer Action’s failure to register with the Secretary of State as a “political committee” violates state law requiring federal entities (CPA is registered as a 501c4 “social welfare organization” enjoying tax-exempt status) acting to “support or oppose” candidates for elective office to register and disclose campaign activity in Colorado was found to be meritorious, and the group has been ordered to register as a “political committee”, file reports disclosing the organization’s finances (including the identity of CPA contributors) and pay penalties in the amount of $17,735 (a 90% reduction from the amount allowed by statute, which would have totaled $177,350).

The Administrative Law Judge found the explanations of Bob Beauprez that CPA’s activities were not intended to support or oppose candidates “not persuasive” – noting that Beauprez “admitted that CPA and its contributors found certain candidates acceptable and others not” – in finding that CPA’s “major purpose” was indisputably focused on influencing elections. [Pols emphasis]

In other words, Pioneer Action was found guilty of exactly what Arnold accused them of, and exactly what Njegomir denied on the witness stand. It’s an enormous credibility hit to Dan Njegomir and Bob Beauprez, and a major vindication for Colorado’s premiere political gadfly.

And this ruling might not be the end of the story. An ugly ulterior motivate for Njegomir’s columns attacking Arnold has been exposed here. That Njegomir was paid $20,000 by Beauprez’s group should have prompted Njegomir to hand off “coverage” of the Arnold case to somebody else. The eye-popping conflict of interest in Njegomir being paid by Pioneer Action, followed by relentless attacks on Arnold in Njegomir’s official capacity at the Gazette, raises fundamental questions about that paper’s journalistic ethics.

Arnold got more than he bargained for when he turned over this particular rock. Stay tuned for more fallout.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 26)

Get ready for the rain. Or perhaps snow. Or maybe just sun. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congressional Republicans, at the urging of President Trump, are attempting to revive efforts to repeal-and-maybe-replace Obamacare…or at least hoping to pretend that they are sorta trying to repeal the health care law. From the Washington Post:

An influential group of House conservatives threw its support behind a new Republican plan to revise the Affordable Care Act, shifting the political pressure to GOP moderates to determine the effort’s fate.

The House Freedom Caucus, which thwarted Republicans’ first attempt to overhaul the health-care system under President Trump, announced its support for an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) allowing states to opt out of certain rules under Obamacare.

“The MacArthur amendment will grant states the ability to repeal cost driving aspects of Obamacare left in place under the original [Republican plan],” the Freedom Caucus said Wednesday in an unattributed statement.

“While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs,” the statement said.

The decision came as three conservative advocacy groups — the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Heritage Action for America — declared their support for the plan, even as they also admitted it does not fully repeal Obamacare. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve reached the point in the healthcare debate where Republicans are signing onto a deal to “repeal Obamacare” that doesn’t actually repeal Obamacare — though they still don’t appear to have enough GOP support to approve legislation.

 

► Meanwhile, as Sarah Kliff reports for Vox, Congressional Republicans are considering protecting Obamacare access for themselves even if they somehow repeal part of the law:

House Republicans appear to have included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from their latest health care plan.

The new Republican amendment, introduced Tuesday night, would allow states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on preexisting conditions. This means that insurers could once again, under certain circumstances, charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

Republican legislators liked this policy well enough to offer it in a new amendment. They do not, however, seem to like it enough to have it apply to themselves and their staff. A spokesperson for Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who authored this amendment, confirmed this was the case: Members of Congress and their staff would get the guarantee of keeping these Obamacare regulations. Health law expert Tim Jost flagged this particular issue to me.

 

► President Trump is rolling out his tax cuts for billionaires plan tax reform proposal with a one-page document that doesn’t bother to include any specific policy information. Details, shmetails.

 

► State legislative efforts to find funding for transportation and infrastructure upgrades have been officially dashed thanks to three Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee. Elsewhere, legislators are entering the final few weeks of the 2017 session with a number of high-profile items on their to-do lists.

 

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Sen. Tim Neville Abuses Armenian Genocide To Grind Gun Axe


Earlier today in the Colorado Senate, Sen. Tim Neville (R-MGO) spoke in support of SJR17-042, a resolution honoring victims of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government during World War I. But simply honoring the victims of genocide wasn’t enough for Sen. Neville, who turned the discussion into an argument against “gun control.” As the story went from Neville, the Turks confiscated the guns of the Armenian population, which left them “defenseless” when the Turks started rounding Armenians up and forcing them on death marches through the Syrian desert.

A little Googling will reveal the story that Turkish gun control laws “left Armenians defenseless” in the face of genocide is an article of faith among American gun rights supporters. Similar arguments are made about the Nazis’ supposed gun control campaign before the Holocaust–a campaign Politifact says never happened. The truth is, there is little evidence to support the idea that small arms would have made any difference with regard to either the Armenian or Jewish genocides of the 20th century.

This is a photograph of Armenian partisans defending themselves from Turkish forces in 1915.

Note the guns.

In reality, Armenians were confronted with overwhelmingly superior military force, against which small arms afforded little more than token resistance. Armenians had no means of resisting Turkish forces employing artillery and other heavy weapons against them. The myth of small-arms resistance against a modern military force simply breaks down in the face of this reality. In response to the regular suggestion from pro-gun politicians and pundits that could could have saved the Jews from the Nazis, the Anti-Defamation League is unequivocal:

The Anti-Defamation League “has always strenuously objected to the use of Nazi analogies to advance any kind of political debate, including the gun control debate,” said Deborah Lauter, the group’s civil rights director. “We believe it’s historically inaccurate and incredibly insensitive, particularly to Holocaust survivors and their families.”

Beyond that, she said, it’s just a false comparison.

“In no way could armed people have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi state,” she said, noting that some European Jews had access to a small number of firearms. “There could be symbolic resistance, as we saw in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but it would not have stopped the Nazis.”

Look, we understand that these kinds of historical myths are very seductive to Americans looking to apply them to contemporary political questions. That’s because when it comes to human tragedy on the scale of 20th century genocides, most Americans don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. We apply these events from world history to our political debates without proper context, or even a rational basis.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to transport Sen. Neville back to eastern Turkey in 1915–so he can see for himself how ridiculous these militiaman fantasies really are.

Republicans Kill Transportation Funding Bill

No road repairs for you!

As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

A bipartisan measure backed by Colorado’s top lawmakers to seek a sales tax hike for transportation reached the end of the road Tuesday.

A state Senate panel defeated the proposal to pump $3.5 billion into improving the state’s highways along party-lines with the three Republican members citing ideological opposition to increasing taxes.

The outcome became clear a week earlier when the Senate’s bill sponsors hastily announced an impasse in the negotiations on the term’s No. 1 priority, a major setback for legislative leaders and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“This is a statewide solution bill,” said Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City. “Yes it contains things both sides may cringe at. … But we must start looking at some of these things.”…

Most supporters urged the Senate Finance Committee to allow the measure to reach the Senate floor, where it has the votes to pass, and emphasized the need to take action. [Pols emphasis]

But the bulk of opponents criticized the tax hike and suggested lawmakers cut spending elsewhere to prioritize money for transportation, suggesting everything from reductions in spending on libraries to selling an airplane used by the governor.

As Frank notes, there were enough votes in the Senate as a whole to get this transportation legislation out of the Upper Chamber and onto the Governor’s desk…but three partisan Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee refused to allow the bill to advance (despite support from Senate President Kevin Grantham). Senators Tim Neville (R-Jefferson County), Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and Jack Tate (R-Centennial) did the bidding of the Koch-funded group Americans for Potholes Prosperity, making the same tired old argument that we can just find enough money in the couch cushions of various state offices if we look hard enough.

For partisan Republicans like Neville, Hill, and Tate, it’s easier to just say “NO” to everything than it is to try to actually come up with solutions.

Denver Post Adds Nice Postscript to “Keyser’s Law”

Former state Rep. Jon Keyser showing off his “terrified” face before being interviewed by Marshall Zelinger.

We wrote yesterday about the advancement of HB17-1088, otherwise known as “Keyser’s Law,” because the bill seeks to correct a rather large loophole in the signature-gathering process for candidates — a loophole that former Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser infamously exploited in his 2016 Senate bid.

Keyser’s Law” is headed to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper for his formal signature creating the new law, which will apply the same standards for checking signatures on candidate petitions as is already done for ballot measure petitions and mail ballots. Today, Megan Schrader of the Denver Post editorial board ties a neat little bow on this small piece of Colorado history:

Let’s recount the fun of the Republican showdown to get on the Colorado primary ballot in 2016 for U.S. Senate: one meme-inducing video, three court challenges, nine deaths by caucus and 34 felony forgery charges…

…This year, state lawmakers tried to come up with a solution. Only one idea has stuck so far.

House Bill 1088  — which is headed to the governor, who is reportedly likely to sign it — would require signature verification and allow candidates to remedy small errors before signatures get tossed out. The secretary of state will use voter signatures already retained in a database for ballot-verification purposes to verify signatures on petitions. No longer would the job fall to reporters like Mitchell — I mean Marshall — Zelinger, the former Channel 7 investigative reporter who chased down the fraudulent signatures that were included on candidate Jon Keyser’s petition. Keyser memorably botched Zelinger’s name, refused to answer the reporter’s questions about the signatures and instead issued a vague threat involving the size of his dog. [Pols emphasis]

Schrader notes that “the bill is a good idea,” and we don’t disagree. Unfortunately for Keyser and his campaign, there is no piece of legislation that will scrub this mother-of-all-political-disasters from anyone’s memory — not anytime soon.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 25)

Only one shopping day left until Administrative Professionals Day. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► ‘Tis better to try and fail than to never have tried at all. This quote pretty much sums up the latest political “maneuvering” from the White House. As the Washington Post reports:

Donald Trump blinked first – again.

After the bluster comes the inevitable bow to reality. Last night the president backed off his demand that any deal to fund the federal government include money to start construction on his border wall. At an event with conservative journalists, Trump said he’s okay waiting until September to have this fight.

While the mainstream media will cover this as another failure, the president’s core supporters will not see it that way. They see someone fighting to keep his promises and will give him an “A” for effort [Pols emphasis]…

…Trump’s approval rating is at record lows, but he maintains credibility with his base. Our new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that his overall approval rating is 42 percent, but his rating among those who voted for him is 94 percent. Only two percent of his voters now regret doing so.

“Make an Effort at Making America Great Again.”

 

► Joe St. George at Fox 31 News ponders a potential federal government shutdown and what it would mean for Colorado:

The Denver Federal Center in Lakewood is the largest campus of civilian federal employees outside of Washington. More than 6,000 are employed there over 700 acres.

Employees said Monday the last time there was a shutdown, many contractors lost three weeks of pay.

Other possible consequences include the closure of national parks and forcing military employees to work without pay.

Congress may be able to avert a shutdown now that President Trump is backing off of demands to fund a border wall with Mexico.

 

 

► Conservation groups are worried about a potential Executive Order from President Trump that could threaten the status of three “national monuments” in Colorado. CBS4 Denver has more on the order that could be signed as soon as Wednesday.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (April 24)

Pop quiz: Name one of two top finishers in Sunday’s Presidential race in France. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is very angry that he is being judged on the first 100 days of his Presidency, but at least he still has a job. The Washington Post examines the fate of 15 top Trump supporters who didn’t even make it to 100 days in the White House.

 

► President Trump sat down with Julie Pace of the Associated Press for an extensive interview that was absolutely bizarre. Trump is very touchy about any attempts to summarize his first 100 days in office — which have not gone well by any serious estimation — so the President spends most of his time talking about that time he won the 2016 election and about how he is the biggest ratings draw on cable television.

As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Trump is starting to sound awfully similar to Uncle Rico:

At issue for Trump is that he continues to seem more interested in how he won the office than what he will do with the office. An occasional reminder of a time when you won is great. But Trump is bordering on Uncle Rico (of “Napoleon Dynamite”) territory here.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, watch this:

“Back in ’82 I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile,” Uncle Rico recalls. “If coach would have put me in fourth quarter we would have been state champions….no doubt in my mind.”

The point is: Dwelling too much in the past makes you a prisoner of the past. Trump won a historic upset. No question.  But, now he’s president. So, how he got elected — and how no one called it — is now less relevant than what he plans to do in the office.

Michael Kruse of Politico takes a look at “How Trump Succeeds Without Succeeding.”

 

► “Keyser’s Law” becomes official in Colorado.

 

► Construction defects reform legislation passed out of the State House on a unanimous vote on Monday. It is now up to the State Senate to approve HB17-1279.

 

 

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Local Republicans join Trump in proposing to push people off state health insurance rolls

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a major change since last year, state Republicans are now proposing specific cuts to Medicaid, Colorado’s health care program for the elderly, disabled, and other poor people.

In 2016, local Republican leaders repeatedly blamed Medicaid, including its expansion under Obamacare, for Colorado’s budget woes, but they didn’t explain how they’d cut Medicaid or alter it to save funds.

But this year, state Republican legislators are advocating specific cuts that would throw people off the state health insurance rolls.

For example, all Colorado State House Republicans, except Bob Rankin of Carbondale and Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction, voted April 7 for a budget amendment to reduce Medicaid eligibility for “adults without dependent children.” The measure, which failed, was opposed by all House Democrats. (here at 807-808).

The amendment aimed to transfer $52 million in state hospital fees, which are used to cover Colorado’s nearly 10 percent contribution to Obamacare, to “rural and critical access hospitals.”

“The goal was to back fill the cuts to rural hospitals within existing resources, while still making sure the most vulnerable portion of the population of single individuals without children still received services,” said State Rep. Justin Everett (R-Littleton), the amendment’s sponsor, who’s also running for state treasurer.

Critics of the proposal questioned whether the amendment would, in fact, help hospitals, whose funding could be cut this year due to do a state budget crunch.

“When you rescind Medicaid eligibility, you’re actually putting us back in a situation where hospitals are going to have to care for uninsured people, which results in higher uncompensated care costs for the hospitals,” said Natalie Wood, a senior policy analyst with the Bell Policy Center,  a progressive organization that aims to “help Coloradans get ahead and stay ahead.” “And when hospitals have uncompensated care costs, they make up for it by passing costs to private patients, or it cuts into their profit margin. So that doesn’t seem like a solution to help hospitals deal with their pain.”

The number of Medicaid recipients who would lose coverage under Everett’s proposal isn’t known, but they’d be adults without dependent children who got insurance under Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid. They must earn less than $15,800 annually to qualify for assistance.

So far, about 450,000 Coloradans gained Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, which is the prime reason the uninsured rate in the state decreased by about half between 2013 (14.3 %) and 2015 (6.7%), according to the Colorado Health Institute.

The change in Republican proposals, from calls for unspecified Medicaid cuts last year to this year’s proposals to strip low-income Coloradans of their health insurance, is already emerging on the 2018 campaign trail.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 19)

Enjoy the sunshine today before the rain arrives. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado lawmakers appear to have finally reached consensus on so-called “construction defects reform” legislation, which could bring an end to a long-running argument — five years, in fact — regarding legal liabilities for homebuilders. The House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee is expected to make amendments that will advance HB17-1279 this afternoon. 

Elsewhere, state legislators are still battling over the state budget, which is the only bill that they are Constitutionally-mandated to pass each session. Governor John Hickenlooper is expressing confidence that there will be no need for a “special session” later this summer.

 

► Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief after an upstart Democrat just fell short of the 50% required to win outright a Congressional seat that had been represented by Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services). Democrat Jon Ossoff will now face Republican Karen Handel in a June runoff election for a seat that has historically been reliably-Republican. Democrats, meanwhile, are feeling good about what the Georgia Congressional race could portend for 2018.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a 90-day stay on the enforcement of new methane emissions rules. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, informed the oil and gas industry of the move in a letter Wednesday to the American Petroleum Institute.

 

 

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Yes, (Some) GOP Senators Did Something Objectively Good

Rep. Lois Landgraf (R) and Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D) celebrate passage of HB17-1186 in the House.

Colorado Capitol observers are still getting their collective heads around a fairly surprising development in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate: House Bill 17-1186, a bill requiring insurers to cover dispensing 12 months worth of contraceptives to women with insurance coverage, has passed the chamber and is now awaiting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature. Similar legislation died in committee in the Senate last year–but with bipartisan sponsorship this session, Colorado Senate GOP leadership not only let the bill go to the floor but celebrated its passage out of the Senate’s “kill committee” in a press release:

Republican Bill Guaranteeing Women’s Health Care Passes Committee

House Bill 17-1186 asks health insurers that are required under current law to provide contraception coverage to extend coverage to provide 12-month’s worth of oral contraceptives for a woman with a prescription…

Reducing barriers to health care for women, and improving access to contraception improves the overall health and well-being of Colorado,” said Coram. “Women’s health care needs require near-constant attention and lifelong commitments. In rural Colorado, the nearest pharmacy can be an hour away and frequent trips are not a reality many Coloradans can afford. Today, we helped improve access for those who need it most, and took a crucial step in decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, and the associated repercussions in Colorado.”

After this “Republican” bill passed Senate State Affairs, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado sang its praises:

“This is an incredible step toward for women and families. It means fewer trips to the pharmacy for people with busy lives or who live in rural areas with longer travel times. It also will result in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, with a longer reliable supply of birth control. It just gives more stability to women and gives families’ ability to plan their lives,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, Vice President of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

The bill’s final vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk was 22-11–while certainly not a majority of the Republican Senate caucus, a much healthier margin than many expected. In large part this can be attributed to the work of Sen. Don Coram in the Senate, winning swingable votes on policy by explaining how supporting this measure would also be good politics.

For those of you looking for a “but,” or a last-minute twist that allows for a clean partisan vilification, in the case of House Bill 17-1186 there isn’t one. What happened here was an objectively good thing; reasonable bipartisan cooperation on an issue that hasn’t seen nearly enough bipartisanship. Republicans who supported it can feel good morally and politically, while Democrats achieved a long-sought policy victory for women.

American politics need more stories like this. Many more.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 18)

Happy Tax Day, everybody! It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Democrats are taking the occasion of Tax Day to push legislation that would make it more difficult for politicians like Donald Trump to refuse to release tax returns. As Marianne Goodland writes for the Colorado Independent:

Two days after an estimated 7,000 people took to Denver’s Civic Center Park to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, a House committee okayed a bill to require presidential candidates to make their returns public.

The measure, which is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Edie Hooten of Boulder and Chris Hansen of Denver, would require both presidential and vice-presidential candidates to submit the most recent five years of tax returns. Those who don’t submit those documents won’t appear on Colorado’s presidential election ballot, under the bill.

At least eight other states are working on similar legislation to require those tax returns, Hooten said; six are states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. In other states, although not Colorado, the legislation is referred to as the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act, or TRUMP Act.

Trump is the first major party candidate in 40 years (since President Gerald Ford ran for election in 1976) to not provide his returns, according to Politifact.

At least a dozen Congressional Republicans also agree that Trump needs to release his tax returns before they will take any sort of action on a Trump tax reform plan.

Meanwhile, the Colorado legislature remains gridlocked over the state budget, with both Democrats and Republicans accusing each other of mucking things up. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 10.

 

President Trump is embracing the idea that today’s special election in Georgia could be a referendum on Trump. It’s true that the special election to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) is being watched closely as a sign of how voters are feeling about the first 90-odd days of the Trump administration. But as Chris Cillizza explains, Trump may be getting louder about today’s election because he could be getting word that Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is unlikely to surpass 50% of the vote and thus avoid a runoff election with one of 11 Republican candidates.

 

► British Prime Minister Theresa May shocked European political observers — and even those in the United States who even sorta understand how the British election system works — by calling a surprise election on June 8. Here’s a helpful summary from CNN about what happened and why it is such a surprise (and why you should care):

British governments generally last for five years, and the Conservative Party’s administration — then led by May’s predecessor David Cameron — was elected in 2015. The next election was not due to take place until May 2020…

…May, who took over when Cameron resigned in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, wants to seek a stronger mandate in Brexit talks.

The UK government formally served divorce papers on the European Union last month, signaling the beginning of the end of a relationship that endured for 44 years.

But her party only has a slim majority in Parliament, and opposition parties have attempted to throw rocks in her path towards Brexit.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (April 17)

You know there is still a rogue Easter Egg in your backyard somewhere. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► We’re halfway through the month of April, and there is still no end in sight to the large-scale protests of Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. Denver7 has more on a big Denver rally on Saturday:

Thousands took to the streets in Denver demanding to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Protesters gathered at Civic Center Park and rallied together Saturday afternoon to ask for transparency and honesty from the president when it comes to his financial dealings.

The Tax March in Denver, one of more than 150 held across the nation, was also held in the hopes of creating pressure for Congress to enact legislation forcing elected officials to release their tax returns.

More rallies are planned for this weekend with a focus on addressing Climate Change.

 

► One of the biggest political stories in the country this week is taking place in Georgia, where the outcome of a special race to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) could foretell big changes in the 2018 election. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff may be able to get better than 50% of the vote in Tuesday’s election and avoid a runoff election with one of 11 Republican candidates. As CNN explains:

That’s what makes this race so fascinating: It shouldn’t be competitive. When Rep. Tom Price was tapped as Donald Trump’s health secretary, Georgia politicos were readying for what was likely to be an all-Republican fight featuring a few token Democrats. But Ossoff has jolted the 18-candidate field and unified most of the district’s Democrats and Trump skeptics.

Republicans are concerned enough about this race that President Trump took to bashing Ossoff on Twitter this morning.

 

► The White House is taking criticism from a late Friday announcement that visitor logs would no longer be made public. As the Washington Post writes:

Donald Trump appears to have made a cynical calculation that he will not pay a high political price for being the most secretive president since Richard Nixon.

All the leaks about infighting among senior staff and the president’s proclivity for tweeting have created a false sense that the public knows what is happening inside his White House. In fact, the administration has gone to great lengths to conceal pertinent information from the American people.

After dodging questions on the subject for weeks, the administration waited until the afternoon of Good Friday to dump the news that it will not follow former president Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of most visitors to the White House complex. The president’s communications director cited “grave national security risks” as a justification, even though Obama had made an exception for national security.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 14)

Have a Good Friday. For that matter, have a good Saturday and Sunday, too. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has been all over the news in the last few days following a town hall meeting earlier this week that did not go particularly well for the longtime Republican politician. On Thursday, Coffman made some interesting statements in an interview with Kyle Clark of 9News that included a sharp rebuke to Republicans who continue to complain — with no evidence — about “fake protestors” badgering Members of Congress. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

CLARK: Do you think they’re ‘fake protesters?’

COFFMAN: You know, I really don’t. You know, God bless the Republican Party for what it does, but I don’t–the fact is that they had to register for the event because we wanted to make sure that the people were from the district. And so, ah, uh, I thought it was a great event, I thought it was very lively, uh, I thought, I felt they were very committed, uh, to their issues, uh granted the audience leans left relative to the district, but they’re the people who are most concerned. With potential changes, mostly to Medicaid. And so I respect the fact that, you know that they were there, they were voicing their views, and they were not shy about it…

…I mean the fact is that, I think that the reality is, that sure there are some organizers there. But the vast majority of these people are simply committed activists in their own right. Uh, and they are not paid. They are simply, this is where their heart is. And I respect that.

Coffman’s answer here is not only a rebuke to the hysterical nonsense coming from partisan Republicans, but a sharp blow to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) as well. Gardner has been trying to months to make the argument that people who are disappointed with his actions are “fake” or “paid” protestors, and Coffman’s words make this a difficult narrative to continue.

 

► Not all is well for Rep. Coffman, who is still getting poor reviews for his ham-handed town-hall event on Wednesday.

 

► As for Gardner, he is meeting today with employees of CoBank in Greenwood Village. It’s sorta like a town-hall meeting, except that you can’t come. Gardner took a tour of Devils Canyon in Western Colorado on Wednesday; he’ll go anywhere so long as he isn’t likely to run into actual constituents.

 

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Andy Kerr First to Make Big Launch for CD-7

State Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood)

As Peter Marcus writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette, state Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) kicks off today what could be a long and complicated race to succeed Rep. Ed Perlmutter in CD-7:

In a launch video, Kerr said he plans to “take leadership to Washington, the Colorado way.”

“Colorado has taught me what it means to be a leader,” Kerr said in the more than three-minute video. “I’ve learned that good leaders are known for what they do, not for what they say. That’s leadership, the Colorado way.”

The video features images of scenic Colorado views, Kerr with his family, teaching a group of students in a classroom, holding a town hall in a brewery, snowboarding, and, of course, Kerr riding his bike, something that has become a staple of his image…

…Kerr will hold a formal campaign kickoff Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at  Dunstan Middle School in Lakewood. He also on Wednesday launched his official campaign website.

Also announced in the Democratic race is state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, also from Lakewood. Pettersen, like Kerr, made her intentions known shortly after Perlmutter announced his run for governor.

Kerr is a middle school teacher in Jefferson County who has also served in the state legislature since 2006, both of which make him the early leader in this race. We are still waiting to hear more about which Republican candidates will take a look at this open seat in 2018, but it is expected to get crowded.